Dear Miss Patti,
The other day my son’s preschool teacher told me that my son was behaving aggressively with his friends and just asked if I had seen this behaviour at home. This has never happened before and I don’t quite know what to do when I don’t see this behaviour myself.
— Aggressively Unaware
Dear Aggressively Unaware,
This is a common occurrence at this age. Many times, especially if your child is an only child, if you don’t have relatives nearby or if you don’t do play dates or Strongstart, we might not see this behaviour. At home, they have the place to themselves. They don’t have to share their toys, it’s quieter, and they have their family to go to for all their needs.
In a preschool setting, there are many other personalities to contend with, it’s very noisy, busy and they might not know which adult to go to yet. Children get overstimulated so easily and it can display itself in many ways. Most of the time this aggression is just a way of communicating that something is not working the way they would like or as I mentioned in last weeks letter, they are not too good at regulating their emotions or bodies just yet. It’s not usually due to them being mean or wanting to hurt others, it’s just a way of communicating when words fail due to big feelings.
Sometimes, it can also be television programs/video games that are not age appropriate. Children copy what they see. When my boys were young, they watched a GI Joe cartoon. Within minutes of watching this, they were clobbering each other and yelling, “Yo Joe!” We were at a McDonald's play place and a poor unsuspecting young Spiderman was clobbered and I could hear that lovely phrase being proudly proclaimed by my son as Spiderman ran to his mom crying. Needless to say, GI Joe was put on vacation until the boys were much older.
Always have open conversations with educators and come up with a plan together for what to do moving forward. Just because you don't see the behaviour at home does not mean it can’t happen. These are different contexts and situations that your child might not have encountered before. Finding out what language the educators use to calm and remind is very helpful. (Let’s use gentle hands. Hands are for hugs and handshakes.)
Every centre might use different terms and if you can be on the same page as your child’s preschool then your child gets the consistent message everywhere. Remind them before they go to school what they are working on and any calm down strategies they can use when they get frustrated or overwhelmed. Role playing different scenarios at home can help them practice words they can say when their feelings get too big.
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